Like the win over the Patriots several weeks ago was eerily similar to the win over them in the Super Bowl in 2008, our loss to the Packers Sunday was in turn eerily similar to the game we lost to the Patriots to end that fated 2007 regular season. Toe to toe with the best team in the league (looking to remain undefeated), making them sweat until the very last play - and reminding them that not every team they play will go down easy. Certainly not this one.
I don't believe the better team won on Sunday. We were not outplayed, but instead beat ourselves. If Eli doesn't skip the ball to a wide open Ramses Barden on third down on our second drive of the game, if he doesn't make a bad decision and not see Clay Matthews before throwing a pick-six, if Coughlin doesn't lose timeouts on poor replay challenges, if Aaron Ross doesn't completely forego his coverage responsibilities in the end zone against Donald Driver near the end of the second quarter, it's a totally different ballgame. The point is, we missed opportunities to take this game for ourselves, and it still came down to a game-winning field goal as time expired for the undefeated Green Bay Packers to squeak by us with a win.
The View From Home
Missed the beginning of the game, including Eli's touchdown connection to Travis Beckum on our first drive of the game (looked great on the replay, so why'd Travis disappear after that play?), thanks to the Denver-Minnesota game going a little long. I guess when Jesus is working his magic for another big-time fourth quarter comeback, all else gets put on hold. Fortunately the game didn't go into overtime, and Fox picked the Giants' game up just in time to see the defense force the Packers to punt it back to us on their first offensive series.
With JJ and I the only ones at my place watching, the seating became almost a new experience. Joe and Vandy were in San Francisco for the weekend, and didn't make it back until the fourth quarter was well underway. JJ moved from the couch to the recliner, and it certainly seemed to work well. The defense played really well in the first half, while the offense seemed to (relatively) stub its toe a little bit near the end of the first/beginning of the second quarter. So I suggested maybe JJ try sitting in the recliner when we were on defense and try the couch while on offense. He wasn't thrilled with the idea of moving around every time there was a change of possession, but being the awesomely die-hard Giants' fan that he is, he figured if it helped give the Gmen a shot to beat the Pack, why not try? So he did, and on the first play of the second quarter, Eli threw a pick-six to Clay Matthews. Experiment over. So, yeah, that score was kind of on me - sorry.
If you're still with me on the superstition side of things here, you'll love this next part. After giving up the lead with less than two minutes to go, our offense got the ball only to give it right back on an Eli Manning fumble. They drove a little ways and got into field goal range, which given their starting field position meant a relatively good stand by our defense. While lining up, JJ turned to me and said, "Those Meadowlands' winds are really swirling. This field goal isn't a given." Then - WIDE RIGHT! Good call buddy!
The excitement really got amped up when Eli led that fantastic drive ending with a Nicks TD reception and a successful run by DJ Ware for the 2-point conversion. He's just SO GOOD when we need him to be on those late-game drives. And while the excitement and exuberance left us as soon as it arrived, the pride was still there.
Toe to Toe with the Champs
Thirty-five to thirty-five, fifty-eight seconds left on the game clock, the Packers with only one timeout left. They drove the field and kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. No way anyone can say the offense didn't do its job. Yes, we could've killed a little more time on our final drive, but you also have to realize it's not like we were settling for a field goal. Touchdowns aren't easy to score in the NFL, so when you can score them, you have to take the opportunity. What really irks me is that, despite the pass rush working all game to keep Aaron Rodgers in check, we stopped doing that when it mattered most. Fifty-eight seconds left, and Perry Fewell sends out a defense comprised of eight defensive backs and three pass rushers. PREVENT DEFENSE DOES NOTHING BUT PREVENT TEAMS FROM WINNING!
I've never been soft-spoken about the way I feel about Aaron Ross - he's not a starting NFL cornerback. Despite the many interceptions he's made this season, I still think he has cost us more than he's helped us. There's no clear stat that measures how often a defensive back gets burned throughout the season, especially if it's a missed assignment. But I've taken notes on nearly every game this season, and looking through them there's at least one or two moments in every game where I have something written about Ross letting a guy get behind him in coverage or falling down or missing an assignment or biting on a play-action or something. And it's every game. Having one or two plays each game where you watch and think, "hey, nice coverage, good job," shouldn't be enough. It should be expected that you do your job and play tight coverage all game. The same goes for Will Blackmon, Antrel Rolle, and the rest of our secondary. To have eight guys back there with less than a minute to play and still give up 24- and 27-yard completions on their first two plays from scrimmage? Then on 2nd and 11 from the 30, when they were still far enough away that the Meadowlands' winds could maybe send their kick wide, we give up an 18-yard completion to Jordy Nelson! They call timeout with three ticks left, and the rest is history.
Secondary aside, our most effective defensive weapon all game was our pass rush. We were roughing up Rodgers all game and throwing off his accuracy. Then to simply take the threat away? A three-man rush against the best QB in the league, giving him all the time in the world to find open receivers? Really think that's the best idea, Perry? You publicly challenged your defense last week heading into this game, which I supported, citing their lack of effort the past two weeks. Then they come out and show a great effort and punch the best team in the league in the mouth for fifty-nine minutes, and you take away their opportunity to finish? Guess someone should start challenging YOU publicly.
I don't like to blame the referees for a loss, especially since bad calls typically even out between both teams, but I'd hardly call the refereeing on Sunday even. Early in the fourth quarter, Green Bay driving, 3rd and ten, and you call back an awesome sack by Tollefson and JPP because of an illegal contact by Jacquian Williams? He barely touched him, and it had nothing to do with the play! Granted we eventually stopped them and forced a punt, but we got the ball back at our own 13-yard line. Three and out. Had they not called back the sack on that 3rd down earlier, they would've been punting from their own 25-yard line instead of our 46. Reminded me of the play during Super Bowl XXXV when Jessie Armstead had a pick-six early in the game called back by a very questionable "hold" by Keith Hamilton. You never know what sort of momentum that might've carried on throughout the game. And allowing the Greg Jennings third-quarter "touchdown catch" to stand, even though he clearly didn't have possession throughout the play, which is supposed to be the rule for a reception in the end zone? Then again I've never been particularly fond of Jeff Triplett as a referee - a guy that loves irritating the home crowd.
Done with that rant. Not blaming the refs, but couldn't recap the game without at least bringing them up. Certainly not one of the best-called games of the year.
Great to have Ahmad back, that's for sure. I think the offense (especially Jacobs) feeds off of his intensity. He didn't have mind-boggling numbers, but between him, Jacobs, and Ware our rushing game accounted for one hundred yards and one touchdown. Takes me back to the days of earth, wind, and fire - don't need one stand out, just enough from everyone to force opposing defenses to respect the run, which in turn helps the pass tremendously. And as Eli's numbers will show you (23 of 40, 347 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT), they certainly did. Also have to give the offensive line a ton of credit - no Baas, no Beatty, no problem. Well done. When your team scores 35 points on offense, you can be sure that side of the ball wasn't the reason they lost.
Offensive Game Ball - Victor Cruz. All the guy does is make plays. He's turning into what Amani Toomer used to be and what Steve Smith looked like he was starting to become - Eli's go-to-guy. Whenever Eli's in trouble, he always seems to look Cruz's way, and Cruz more often than not seems to come through. The guy makes great catches at clutch times, and always seems to find a way to get open. Despite Nicks matching his jersey number in receiving yards and reeling in two TD catches in the process, it was Cruz whose name I kept hearing and chanting all game. Seven catches for 119 yards. All game we converted just five of eleven third downs. One of them was on a one-yard rush by Jacobs. The other four were converted through the air - one to Ballard, one to Nicks (on our last offensive drive to score a TD and put us within two), and two to Cruz. And he only targeted Cruz twice on 3rd downs. Talk about clutch when he has to be.
Defensive Game Ball - Jason Pierre-Paul. Like Cruz, he didn't come away with the best stats from the game on Sunday, but if you were watching then you'd know he was the most dominant presence out there. Chase Blackburn obviously gets a mention here with his incredibly clutch interception in his first game since being re-signed by the Giants, but JPP still had the better overall effort. Even the two weeks prior, when we played horribly, JPP was the one guy who never showed the slightest hint of giving up. He only came away with three tackles, and had no sacks, but the guy was in Rodgers' head all game. He played a great series on the Pack's second-to-last offense drive of the first half, including a backfield tackle and a tipped pass, but unfortunately the secondary didn't match his effort and let up a TD.
Non-Gmen Thoughts of the Week:
• A cousin introduced me to the site "Damn You Auto Correct," which focuses on accidentally hilarious texting conversations made by the iPhone's auto correct feature. I don't own an iphone, and have never used auto-correct, but I think it's dumb for people to blame auto-correct. Stop being so reliant on technology to do everything for you. Are you so lazy that you can't finish your own texts, or are you not able to turn the feature off? And are you not able to check what's filled-in by the auto-correct tool before sending the message? While it is hilarious and I'm happy the site exists to make me and other people laugh, don't think for a second any of the idiots this has happened to deserve any sympathy. Just another scapegoat for what's become an unbelievably lazy and impatient society.
• Facebook Comment of the Week - "Somehow I keep thinking that before this season is over and done with, the '72 Dolphins are going to owe Big Blue one more time!" - Rob Lender.
• Haven't done this in a while, mainly because most of the comments aren't exactly PC, but when I read one that gets me this amped up, I have to feature it. Well put, Rob - hope you're right!
• I know, it's Gmen-related. But it's less team- and game-centric, more big-picture epic-ness. Good enough for me.
• Fighting for my fantasy football life tonight during the San Diego - Jacksonville game. Playoffs on the line, fighting for that 6-seed, currently down 91-79 with only Vincent Jackson to play. He's out of players for the week. On a side note, don't you hate it when one of the guys in your fantasy league is completely out of it and decides to trade a bunch of his good players to a contender just to have players from the team he likes? That happened, and that "contender" is the one I'm jostling with for the last playoff spot. BUSH LEAGUE.
• Finally Tim Tebow gets a win and finishes the game with respectable quarterback numbers. Not the guy or the team to pick against right now, that's for sure.
Fortunately for us, everyone we needed to lose last weekend lost. We're very much still in the driver's seat, and on Sunday looked like the hotter team than this Sunday night's opponent, the Cowboys. I've been saying for weeks now that if we take care of the Cowboys, the division is ours. Time to make that happen! DALLAS WEEK! GET PSYCHED! To talk all things Giants, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Facebook under the name "Gmen Superfan," and/or find me on Twitter under the name "@gmensuperfan1." Twelve games down, four to go! Let the epic run begin! Until next week, GO GMEN!! Join other diehard Giants Fans!
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